Are you disposing of data properly?

Operators of licensed trade businesses must ensure confidential waste is shredded or risk hefty fines, writes Brian McCulloch

A CABINET full of supplier records here, a pile of customer receipts there – it’s amazing how much paperwork stacks up, even in the digital age.
Disposing of that paperwork should be handled with due care to ensure that you, and those that use your services, are not at risk of identity theft or fraud.
It’s also the law.

Brian McCulloch, Shredall
• Brian McCulloch (right) said businesses must dispose of data correctly.

The Data Protection Act (1998) states that every business has a legal responsibility to protect and secure documents that contain sensitive data. Failure to do so can lead to significant penalties – up to £500,000 for the most serious breaches.
While a bog standard office shredder may offer some level of protection, it’s highly likely that it will cut in vertical strips, which could be reassembled with a bit of patience.
Professional data destruction companies, on the other hand, will ensure that this is virtually impossible by using shredders that ‘cross cut’ – in our case into particles that are no larger than 4mm.
There are a number of reasons why you should consider outsourcing your shredding, including:
• Security – recent statistics from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) show that loss or theft of paperwork was one of the most common data security incidents in Q4 2015/2016 (January to March 2016).
But it’s not just paperwork that contains confidential information; it’s highly likely that your computer does too.
The WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive introduced in 2007 aims to divert recyclable electronic waste away from landfill, and is a service that most shredding companies will offer these days. Items that can be destroyed include hard drives, monitors, towers, printers, laptops and USBs.
If your restaurant, bar or hotel requires staff to wear a uniform then these can be disposed of too. It might not be something that’s ever crossed your mind but identity fraud is estimated to cost the UK £5.4 billion a year, according to the National Fraud Authority’s latest Annual Fraud Indicator.

Taking action can reduce the risk of identity theft or fraud.

• Time and space – shredding is a noisy, time-consuming and tedious task, with most in-house machines only capable of handling a couple of sheets of paper at once. Feed too many and a paper jam can occur, and shredding receptacles need to be emptied once full.
Professional data destruction companies can do the job in a fraction of the time, and can handle staples, elastic bands or paper clips that would normally need to be removed before being run through a portable shredder.
Shredding on a regular basis is also good for business organisation, and frees up valuable office or storage space. Having huge volumes of documents lying around is also a potential trip or fire hazard.
• Environment – businesses should take their environmental commitments seriously, and wherever possible, ensure that paper is recycled.
Professional shredding companies are able to sort, grade and bale large stacks of shredded paper, often with a 100% recycle rate. Some electronics equipment may be reused too.
Recycled paper helps to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill and can be made into a wide range of everyday products, including newspapers, magazines, paper, cardboard, tissue, hand towels, loft insulation and animal bedding.
If you’re content to stick with an in-house shredder, then make sure you’ve got one that’s robust enough for your business’s needs.
Can it handle the volume you want it to, and run for a decent amount of time (a light-duty shredder can run for approximately two minutes at a time)? Does it have any additional features that you’d benefit from?
• Brian McCulloch is manager at Shredall Scotland.